Last week’s round of hostilities between Israel and Islamic Jihad saw hundreds of rockets fired from Gaza at Israeli communities – the “Gaza envelope” villages and the town of Sderot, as well as the city of Be’er Sheva and the densely-populated metropolitan areas of the Israeli Mediterranean coast, from Tel Aviv south.
Covering the events, English language Western media outlets naturally understood that these communities are recognized internationally as Israeli, lying within the 1949 armistice lines. The same is true regarding another group of Israeli communities which made a recent, albeit brief, appearance in the news – the villages adjacent to the international border with Jordan, near two small territories on which Jordan implemented its full sovereignty earlier this month – Naharayim/al-Baqura and Tzofar/al-Ghamar.
However, to some Arabic language media organizations in the West, the communities of the Gaza envelope, the Arava valley and Jordan River’s northern valley are actually “settlements” (Mustawtanat), inhabited by “settlers” (Mustawtinoon) – regardless of their location inside “legitimate Israel”.
Thus, reports from the last two weeks included sentences like:
“launchings of rockets [from Gaza] towards the Israeli settlements” (Independent Arabia, November 16th)
“alarm sirens howled in the Israeli settlements surrounding Gaza” (Sky News Arabia, November 15th)
“the attack of rocket shells, launched from the Gaza Strip towards the [Gaza] envelope settlements, is still ongoing” (France24 Arabic, November 13th, 0:45)
“the Israeli [television] station also published a footage showing Israeli settlers in a ‘goodbye visit’ to al-Baqura [Naharayim]” (Independent Arabia, November 10th)
“Israeli media outlets have reported that al-Baqura and al-Ghamar have been closed for settlers” (Sky News Arabia, November 9th)
This phenomenon was already discussed in detail in a previous CAMERA Arabic post from May.
That post argued that the use of “settlements”/”settlers” terminology reflects a common (albeit radical) perception among Arabic speaking journalists and editors that all of Israel should be excluded from the boundaries of international legitimacy. Accordingly, most if not all Jewish inhabitants inside it cannot be referred to as simply living in “communities”, “cities”, “towns” or “villages” (unlike almost any other residential place on the face of the earth, including Arab communities in Israel).
Rather, they are “settlers” living in “settlements” – their sole characteristic being the illegitimate wish of their residents to turn these places into their homeland (an act called istitan, from watan, Arabic for homeland).
Six months later, the many new examples of this highly inaccurate terminology being used – often published by the same media organizations as before – indicate that little has changed.
At the moment it seems, though, that the media organisation adopting the “settlements inside Israel” trend most zealously and consistently is the newest player among English language Western media outlets, the Independent Arabia website (a joint venture of the UK based Independent and the Saudi media group SRMG, with ties to the Saudi state).
One of the website’s articles, featuring an interview with Gazan “legal expert” Yaser Dirawi, is particularly noteworthy in this context; published last July, it demonstrated the absurdity of the belief that Gaza envelope communities in Israel are “settlements”. In response to Israel’s intention to take the case of Gaza’s incendiary balloons to international courts, Dirawi said:
“Balloons fall under peaceful methods to express anger, this is enshrined in international treaties and laws. The texts did not mention the prohibition of balloon use in a protest, neither explicitly nor implicitly, which means they stay within [the set of] peaceful, legitimate means.
“Bringing a case to the United Nations and referring it to the Security Council or to the international tribunals, requires [a proof of] harm [done by] an organized side, and this description does not apply to the balloons’ launchers. Rather, it may reflect backwards, since the settler sits on a land contrary to UN laws, specifically the advisory view of the International Court of Justice, which described colonization [istitan, could also be translated as “the act of settling”] as ‘illegal and violating international laws’, and affirmed that ‘residing in the settlements is considered a violation of norms, which [in turn] is a crime punishable by law’ […]
“The United Nations describes Israel as ‘an authority of occupation’[…]”
It should be added that Dirawi’s quotes, expressing the sincere belief that suing Gaza authorities at the international level would end up with the Gaza envelope communities being outlawed in accordance with “international law”, went unchallenged. Moreover, this was after the interviewer himself (Independent Arabia’s Gaza correspondent, ‘Izz ad-Deen Abu ‘Eisheh) had already referred to the “Gaza envelope settlements” in his own voice three times, and once more when he allegedly quoted the Israeli government (!):
“In the complaint it intends to file at the United Nations, Israel will argue that ‘the civilian residents of the settlements are subjected to terrorism [carried out by] incendiary balloons […]’”.
Following the publication of these articles, a CAMERA Arabic staff member contacted Independent Arabia to request that the “Gaza envelope settlements” rhetoric would be avoided in the future.
A new summary of news items containing references to Israel in its 1949 boundaries as “settled”, “occupied” or a part of an imagined, modern-day “Palestine”, or to its Jewish residents as “settlers” thereof – all in the reporter’s voice and all published in the Arabic language Western media between May and November 2019:
Independent Arabia – 31 items:
‘Izz ad-Deen Abu ‘Eisheh, IA’s Gaza Strip correspondent – 17 items (1 of them jointly):
July 1st: An article refers to Gaza envelope “settlements” 3 times in Abu ‘Eisheh’s voice and once more as he allegedly quotesthe Israeli government. This article also contains the interview with “legal expert” Yaser Dirawi mentioned above
June 26th: An article refers to Gaza envelope “settlements” twice.
June 14th: An article refers to Gaza envelope “settlements” and to the “settlers” who reside in them 6 times, for example in the sentence “one of those rockets [fired from Gaza] directly hit a settler’s house, partially damaging it”
June 9th: A profile piece about the Gaza envelope communities, entitled “Israeli families emigrate from the Gaza envelope settlements – what has changed?”, refers to them as “settlements” and to their residents as “settlers” no less than 32 times. The piece also refers to “territories which Israel occupied in 1948” as a possible emigration destination for Gaza envelope families of “settlers”.
Amal Shehadeh, IA’s Israel correspondent – 4 items:
September 1st: An article covering the Israel-Hezbollah conflict refers to the “border settlement of Afikim [a Kibbutz in northern Israel]”. It also points out that “military devices are spread out across the border and [throughout] the various settlements and cities of the North”
June 18th: An article by Shehadeh, covering infrastructure-related talks between Israel and the Gaza Strip, points out that “the biggest problem is how to dispose of the [Gaza] wastewater, which mostly flows to the Mediterranean. What worries Israel is that considerable amounts would reach the settlements [i.e. communities of the Israeli Mediterranean coast] and pollute them”
May 21st: An article by Shehadeh refers once to “’Erez’ settlement [a Gaza envelope Kibbutz]” and twice to the Gaza envelope “settlements” in general.
Khaleel Moussa, one of IA’s West Bank correspondents – 3 items (1 of them jointly):
July 17th: An article contains at least one reference to the “’Gaza envelope’ settlements” among several (2-5) references to the West Bank settlements.
June 24th: An article written jointly by Moussa and Abu ‘Eisheh refers to “the cities which Israel occupied in 1948”
May 24th: An article by Moussa refers to the “Israeli settlements surrounding the Gaza Strip”. It also mentions a settlement called “Modi’in”, found “west of Ramallah”, although this is probably Modi’in ‘Illit, which is located in the West Bank.
Ahmad ‘Abd al-Hakeem, a Cairo-based IA editor – 2 items:
November 1st: An article by refers to the “Green Line (the 1948 occupied Palestinian lands)”
Raghda ‘Atmeh, one of IA’s West Bank correspondents – 1 item:
October 12th: An article by one of Independent Arabia’s West Bank correspondents, Raghda ‘Atmeh, points out that “after the 1948 Nakba, the occupation seized more than 50% of the Christians’ lands, and 20% more after the 1967 Naksa”
Tareq Dilwani, IA’s Jordan political correspondent – 1 item:
October 10th: An article refers to “al-Baqura [Naharayim] and al-Gamar [Tzofar], two territories adjacent to the border with Palestine”, to the “settlements of middle Arava valley”, and to the “occupation” of al-Baqura/Naharayim in 1950. The third point is contrary to maps of the 1949 Rhodes armistice, agreed upon by both Israel and Jordan, which indicated the area of Naharayim was already Israeli-controlled; this was revealed during a UN Security Council’s discussion on the matter, held in November 1950 after Jordan had filed a complaint to the Council earlier that year.
Anonymous writers – 5 items:
October 1st: “Palestinian readers, whether in territories of the [Palestinian] Authority or in the occupied interior [i.e. Israel within the Green Line]”
September 1st (1): “IDF said that shots were fired towards the agricultural settlement of ‘Afikim’”
September 1st (2): “Libraries looted by the Israeli occupation, starting of 1948”
Sky News Arabia – 9 items:
Qasem Khateeb, Sky Arabia’s Israel corrspondent – 1 item:
June 15th: A video article about Gaza envelope communities points out that “The military[‘s presence] is found in [all] details of residential life, and [in] all of the settlements”. Webpage’s headline reads: ”Israeli families depart from the Gaza envelope settlements”
Anonymous writers – 8 items:
November 14th: “the launching of 5 rockets from the Gaza Strip towards the Gaza settlements”, “the launching of 5 rockets towards the Gaza envelope settlements”
November 12th (2): “the rockets which Palestinian fractions had fired at Israeli settlements”, “the Palestinian fractions fired a barrage of rockets at the Israeli settlements which surround the Gaza Strip and inside Israel”
November 9th: “[headline:] In video – al-Baqura [Naharayim] and al-Ghamar [Tzofar] are being closed to Israeli settlers [prior to Jordanian implementation of full sovereignity]”, “Israeli media outlets have reported that al-Baqura and al-Ghamar have been closed for settlers”
August 27th: “alarm sirens howled in the settlements of Ashkelon and southern Israel”
France 24 – 1 item by Maha Abu al-Kass, France24’s Gaza Strip correspondent:
Al-Hurra – 1 item by an anonymous writer:
November 1st: An article refers to “Gaza envelope settlements”
Research and writing by CAMERA Arabic. Edited by UK Media Watch.